Understanding the var() Method in Pandas DataFrames

The Pandas library in Python is an essential tool for data manipulation and analysis. One of the crucial functionalities provided by Pandas is the var() method, which is used to calculate the variance of the elements in a DataFrame. In this blog, we’ll dive deep into understanding how to use the var() method, its parameters, and some practical examples to illustrate its applications.

What is Variance?

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Variance is a statistical measurement that describes the spread of numbers in a dataset. More specifically, variance measures the average squared deviation of each number from the mean of the dataset. A low variance indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean, and to each other, while a high variance indicates that the data points are spread out over a larger range of values.

Using the var() Method in Pandas

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The var() method in Pandas is used to calculate the variance of a DataFrame along a specified axis. The basic syntax of the var() method is as follows:

DataFrame.var(axis=0, skipna=True, level=None, ddof=1, numeric_only=None) 

Parameters Explained:

  • axis : {index (0), columns (1)}. The axis along which the variance is to be calculated. By default, it is set to 0, which means the variance is calculated along the index (column-wise).
  • skipna : Boolean value, default is True. Exclude NA/null values while calculating the variance. If the entire row/column is NA, the result will be NA.
  • level : Int or level name, default is None. If the axis is a MultiIndex (hierarchical), count along a particular level, collapsing into a scalar.
  • ddof : Int, default is 1 (Delta Degrees of Freedom). The divisor used in calculations is N - ddof, where N represents the number of elements.
  • numeric_only : Include only float, int, boolean columns. If None, will attempt to use everything, then use only numeric data.


Example 1: Column-wise Variance

import pandas as pd 
# Creating a sample DataFrame 
data = {'A': [1, 2, 3, 4], 'B': [5, 6, 7, 8], 'C': [9, 10, 11, 12]} 
df = pd.DataFrame(data) 

# Calculating variance column-wise 
variance = df.var() 

Example 2: Row-wise Variance

# Calculating variance row-wise 
variance_row = df.var(axis=1) 

Example 3: Variance with Missing Values

# Creating a DataFrame with missing values 
data_missing = {'A': [1, 2, np.nan, 4], 'B': [5, np.nan, 7, 8], 'C': [9, 10, 11, 12]} 
df_missing = pd.DataFrame(data_missing) 

# Calculating variance while skipping NA values 
variance_skipna = df_missing.var() 

# Calculating variance without skipping NA values 
variance_no_skipna = df_missing.var(skipna=False) 


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Understanding how to calculate variance in a DataFrame is a fundamental skill for any data analyst or scientist. The var() method in Pandas provides a straightforward and efficient way to compute the variance, helping you to uncover the distribution and spread of your data. By mastering this method, you can gain deeper insights into your datasets and make more informed decisions.

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of the var() method in Pandas, you can start applying this knowledge to your own data analysis projects, ensuring that you handle your data with precision and care.